My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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Don’t call it a comeback

Making a comeback from injury is hard. It takes patience, persistence, and it makes you question the value of what you’re doing, is it really worth putting in all this effort to be ‘fit’ again?

Estimates vary wildly, but according to the internet and a quick scan of who is having a Strava drought, between 30-50% of runners will get an injury in the next 12 months. That is a lot!

In any group of runners there are always a handful that are coming back from some sort of injury or extended break, and the postpartum runners are often lumped in to this despondent bunch as well.

Pushing shit uphill – First 5km post baby

Not an accident, not an injury, what is it then?

In New Zealand we’re pretty fortunate to have accidental injuries covered by ACC. The majority of my ACC claims follow a very similar script. Something to the effect of… ‘I was running then I… stepped off a curb/ tripped backwards over a bench/ tripped on my own feet/ stepped on a rock/ ran down a hill in the rain through slippery mud wearing worn out Nike pegs and tried taking a selfie on my GoPro Hero 5 as I rounded a corner going full tit gunning for a Strava Segment. AND then I sprained my ankle.’

Running has meant that I have become fairly well acquainted with my physiotherapist.

‘Hello again Amanda. Let me guess, you tripped over again. What did you land on this time?’

It was long and hard but it wasn’t a curb Elaine. Heh.

The most traumatic event to happen to my body was not an accident, and is something that over 50,000 women in New Zealand go through every year. Oh, it’s the most natural thing in the world! Our bodies were designed for it, it’s a miracle! My dog did it too! Exciting times! #blessed! That aside, it is still an incredible physical feat that takes a massive toll on your body.

Technically pregnancy is considered a medical condition, because it can make your health suffer and you can lose some of your ability to function as normal. It also has the potential to kill you.

Back when I thought I was sick of doing laundry

The baby is OUT! What happens now?

38 weeks deep and feeling like a balloon filled with elbows and wet socks, I was thinking ‘I can’t wait to give birth and for my body to be my own again.’ Spoiler alert!! You might be sole charge of the body again but it’s not going to be the same as the one you started with.

Post-birth I found it pretty unbelievable that there was no defined path to helping your body to recover from such a major event. I thought that there would be a physical exam to check for abdominal separation, maybe something inserted somewhere to check for pelvic floor strength. When I asked my GP about this mysterious ‘Postpartum check up’ she said, ‘What? Why?’. There is no free postpartum check up in New Zealand.

She’ll be right! Our bodies were designed for it! My dog gave birth to six puppies in the wood shed and she was fine! Actually she suffered from arthritis in her hips for years and now she is dead, but totally fine apart from that.

I feel lucky that I know my body well enough to be aware of something feeling a bit off. I also feel lucky that I can afford to go to a personal trainer and get an exercise program designed to help me to recover after having a baby. Not everyone has that luxury, so recovering from birth ends up being a little bit of luck and a lot of guess work.

The recovery for this injury could just be the good old RICE method? Rest, sleep when the baby sleeps (Pro tip, sleep when the baby cleans). Ice your exit wound, compress your insides back into the correct place and elevate everything that hurts. Because literally everything hurts, the only way to elevate it all is to do a handstand. Or float face down in a pool of your own tears.

Just resting my eyes

Rehab for the addict

I got very mixed advice on how long to wait after birth to return to running. Six weeks, eighteen months, and just six days. After chatting to some running mums I decided I would wait for six weeks and see how I felt. Five weeks and four days in I went for a walk/run and just labelled the activity a walk on Strava. Sneaky. Pretty much six weeks!

It’s a year after the event and I have enjoyed a relatively smooth return to exercise. By relatively smooth I mean I am totally killing it fuck yeah go me! And aside from sprained ankle #47 I had a far easier time than I imagined getting back to running fast.

While I have had it easier than some, I’ve also worked very hard. Pelvic floor, and strength and rehab exercises were prioritised and done 2-3 times a week. I spent over 30 hours doing these alongside walking, cycling, screaming while left alone with my thoughts, and getting what I will very loosely refer to as ‘proper rest’.

I would often think about how much effort I would put in to rehab an ankle sprain to be able to run efficiently and without any pain or niggles. Having a human make an exit through my pelvis was a bit more serious than a little ankle sprain, so it was treated as such and I was very regimented about doing the right things to recover properly.

Hours were spent on the wind trainer while the baby slept. Solo laps run around the neighbourhood in the dark when parent #2 got home. Last minute rehab exercises at 10pm, or sometimes at 3am because I couldn’t sleep after night feed #4. Looking back I can’t believe how committed I was to getting my body back in to working order.

7 months postpartum ( . ) ( o )

Did it actually feel worse than an ankle sprain tho, like a really bad one?

Straight after having a baby it hurt to stand on one leg and put pants on. It hurt to walk, it also hurt to sit thanks to an episiotomy. EVERYTHING hurt and taking painkillers religiously every six hours would keep me from being a sobbing mess. My exercise consisted of walking around the house and lifting a 3.36kg weight all day. AND ALL NIGHT and oh my god it kept getting heavier.

I was waking up at night thinking that I had hip pain, was this another injury? Was it early onset arthritis?! It was just my undies cutting in to my skin because my ass got bigger. This expansion also explained another symptom that Google misdiagnosed. I was feeling like my bits were still swollen post episiotomy because it felt all weird when I sat down, like there was extra padding. No medical complications, no swelling, just the extra padding that comes with a fatter bum.

When the pain faded I started walking wearing the baby in a wrap, and for the first few walks everything felt quite wonky. I was still sore and if I walked for too long or on difficult terrain I would feel a bit crap. I was also exhausted and hormonal and slightly effing crazy but getting fresh air was very necessary.

Would I rather recover from a sprain or childbirth? I pick sprain for the ACC benefits, and a taped ankle says ‘serious athlete’ more than a maternity pad ever could.

Preggo ankle gets a lot of attention

Youuuu just wait until [insert random age of child or #of months pregnant] then you’ll see how HARD it is!

Everyone has such a different experience, some find pregnancy really tough, others find it easy. You have this fear of complaining about anything, or admitting to how you feel because you are going to get judged for every single thing you say. It’s easier not to say anything.

I hated being pregnant. At least you can get pregnant!

It’s hard adjusting to work while parenting and trying to run. I stopped exercising when I had kids, prioritise!

I’m so tired, I wish the baby would sleep past 5am. My three kids don’t sleep and I am up at 4 every day! *proceeds to piss so high that my eyes roll back in my head trying to follow the stream*

Years ago I got a stress fracture in my pelvis. I was in tears because I had to use crutches for two months, I couldn’t run, and I was worried that I would get depressed again without being able to exercise. Someone thought to console me by saying ‘Well it’s not like you have cancer.’ Ingrid, you’re a dick.

No matter what your situation, there will always be someone worse off than you. Does that mean that you shouldn’t get to have feelings because you’re not THE most tired, you don’t have the worst stretch marks, or didn’t have the most trouble breastfeeding?

Your feelings are always valid, because they’re yours. Your story is your own, so own it. Talk about your experiences because they’re yours. It might not mean much to most people but to someone it might mean everything, even if the only person it means something to is you.

Coming back to fitness from any sort of injury or medical condition is hard. Giving birth is a big deal and it’s amazing how little professional guidance there is for the average joe like me. I’m not a pro athlete, but exercise is a big priority for me. I’m not going to be scared off it because someone with a different lifestyle has a different opinion (shock horror) and thinks you shouldn’t run for 18 months after birth.

If it wasn’t for the honesty of many of the mums I have sent panicked messages to asking for advice and reassurance I think I would have given up. So thank you Emily and Emily, Sophie, Steph, Christina, Amanda, Hannah, Tamara, Megan, Anna, Ange, Jess, Claire Phaedra, Lisa, Sierra, Arpita, Jenna, Laura, Becky, Vera, Amy, all the Kates, Cassie, Shelley, Sarah and Michelle for being such amazing role models. You’re pretty cool!


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The same patch of grass

Does it not get boring doing the same few races year after year?

After a couple of seasons doing harriers races, I did start to question whether or not they were still fun, if I should be looking further afield, doing something more exciting, running in beautiful locations or aiming for big overseas events with huge crowds, amazing busy atmospheres and shiny race medals.

For me the harrier’s races serve as a reference point, I remember the previous years and how my performances improved, or didn’t. How I nailed the water jump, or panicked and fell in. The races are a tradition in the running community, some have been held for the past thirty years, others for over 90.

Running the same race is a chance to see how far you’ve come, how your training has progressed, if you’ve gained some speed or perhaps made the ‘A’ team!

I look forward to the harriers races, I get to see my mates and the many colourful personalities and friendly faces of the running community, all gathered to celebrate the sport we love. We come together to run, to encourage each other to push hard, to yell a warning as a competitor sneaks up, and snort with satisfaction when someone inevitably takes a dive into the Milo-brown pond that is the water jump.

The Shaw Baton relay is the first inter-club race of the season. There is always an epic bake sale put on by Olympic Harriers, stinky tents full of half naked runners, sheep, plenty of sheep shit, long Port-a-loo lines and, Rees Buck’s banter on the microphone, whats not to like?

This year being back on the same patch of sheep poo-speckled grass with many of the same people brought back lots of memories of previous races, especially one.

2015 wasn’t the first time I had been in the ‘A’ team at Shaw Baton but I was so incredibly nervous about the day. I always get nervous (sometimes very) before a race, but I was especially anxious about this one.

I don’t remember many specifics from the day other than running around at the changeover, taking times for my team and chatting to people.  I do remember how I felt. I was happy, I was enjoying time with my friends, I was excited and I was having fun. I was proud of my run, getting the 8th fastest lap time, and I was really stoked that my team won our grade by a full minute!

My team had finished and I was still running around, talking with friends in the crowd, discussing the jumps, comparing times, congratulating the ‘other’ teams who might wear different singlets but we all run together anyway. I hadn’t done a cool down yet and was roaming around finding friends to join me on a half-assed jog around the paddock.

I remember quite clearly the joy I felt that day, because I remember the moment that it was gone.

I could spot from a distance, moving through the crowd with clenched hands, and the darkest look on their face, my ride home. The happy girl, proud of her race became tense and worried.

What have you been fucking around at? I’ve been looking for you. There is no cellphone service here, but I bet you knew that didn’t you? Hurry up and get to the car.

I left. I wasn’t there for the prize giving when my name was called. I didn’t get to stand up and collect my little wooden baton with the silver plaque on it. I had somewhere else that I needed to be. This pointless race that I had done, around a stupid paddock to win a stupid stick, had ruined someone else’s day.

The ride home was in silence. I really wanted to celebrate but that would have to wait until another day, some things are more important.

This year when I finished my relay lap I felt proud of my race again. I knew we weren’t in contention for that ‘stupid stick’ with the plaque this year, but that didn’t matter. I got to have my cool down run this time and went up Battle Hill, exploring a new path, up high with views back down over the course. Tiny runners in yellow, green, black and blue moved as little dots through the grass below. I took my time and stayed up the hill a while for some time to myself, even though someone was waiting for me.

How was your run? What time did you do? Awesome, is that good (for you) hah! Is the ankle ok? Do you want a sausage, I’ve got $20! Let’s go and watch the men’s race, it starts in ten minutes.

I took my time chatting to friends. I went to the bake sale table not twice but THRICE and ate brownies, scones, cupcakes and fudge because running 2km really takes it out of you!

I sat in the long damp grass near the water and cheered for the men as they raced and splashed their way over the same course I had run an hour earlier.

Nothing was so important that I had to wait until a time that suited everyone to talk about how my run had played out. Nothing was so important, that I couldn’t celebrate with my friends. Other than the pre-race nerves, nothing made me anxious or tense, I felt happy, content and relaxed, as I should.

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Times are changing but sadly my times aren’t changing

If I look at my times for this race, not much has changed over the past five years. I might be a tiny bit faster. My ankles are still strapped for every race, and every year my facials get a little more aggressive and murderous.

I’m happy to be running the same race on the same course every year because it gives me an opportunity to reflect and see that it’s not just seconds, minutes, or miles that can show me how far I’ve come.